In the automotive world the term “V6 automatic Mustang” is often a four-letter word. I should know, I’ve owned one. Two now that I have this 1986 banana yellow example of American
ingenuity platform prostitution at its finest.
The fox body itself is a good looking car, and the quad-headlight notchback is my personal favorite variant of the bodystyle which is why I lusted over this particular car for going on three years now. My reason for liking it so much is that it looks the least like what someone expects when they hear the word “Mustang” or, to those remotely familiar with them, “Fox body”. The notchback is the lighter variant of the breed sporting a usable rear seat with lap belts and a completely useless trunk. The four sealed beams out from do their best to poop out light onto the road in front of you. The two-tone black and faded yellow paint job is not original to this car, as hints of blue and red are visible in places where paint has been flaking off. Peeling paint and scratches cover the whole car, though it remains impressively dent free. Some very attractive 14" five-spoke wheels round out the ensemble mated to beefy tires.
Motivation for this cocaine-era mode of transportation (of more cocaine) is provided by a 3.8 liter Essex V6. In later years the Essex developed a notoriety on par with the Northstar V8 for blowing headgaskets, especially in the 193hp/225lb*ft version in the 2001-later Mustang and the 210hp/315lb*ft version in the Thunderbird Super Coupe and Cougar XR7. Blowing headgaskets is bad, but those numbers are good! It comes as bittersweet, then, that this particular Mustang is bestowed with the far more reliable second-generation Essex which features 120 horsepower and 205lb*ft of torque, throttle-body injection, and fairly good reliability. As far as motivation goes the Mustang is very adequate. Nothing more, nothing less. Real-world testing reveals it to be slightly slower than my 2002 Mazda Miata in a straight line. The engine is torquey, however, which leads to the always-fun sensation of the car rocking sideways when you take off from a stop.
Transmission (3 gears/10)
The 3-speed automatic in the Mustang is like the engine. Adequate. Kickdown isn’t fantastic, but it’s not the worst. It shifts through the gears in a timely manner and the torque converter has taken the years in stride. Far from the worst automatic car I’ve ever driven (glaring at GM 4T6xx).
Honestly this car sounds far better than it should. V6s usually sound like complete garbage but the Essex in this car does an admirable job of sounding like a big-boy motor. This is possibly due to it having a similar relationship to the 302 V8 as the 4.2 liter GM V6 has to the 350, wherein it’s the same as the larger engine just with two cylinders lopped off the end. Other noises you get to enjoy are:
Noisy-ass speedometer cable
The pained screaming of an ancient accessory belt
The bitching of your significant other (jk she loves this car)
Toys (1 light/10)
None of them work. Except for the dome light and windshield washer.
Seats are comfy front and back. The buckets hold me in place nice and the cloth keeps my butt planted through corners. Everything is spindly and wonderfully 80s. Headliner isn’t sagging. Once I get a decade’s worth of sitting-in-a-field-without-a-driver-window grime out of the car it should clean up very nice.
This car drives way too nice. No car from the 80s should drive this nice. No car bought this cheap should drive this nice. No car this beat up should drive this nice. It makes absolutely no sense and I’m calling shenanigains. Body roll is present but very controlled and almost unnoticed in corners. Turn-in is slightly sloppy in a traditionally American way though there is impressively little play in the steering. The balance between comfort and handling is struck almost dead perfect. It handles exactly how a Miata would handle if it was build by Americans in the 80s.
Conclusion (starbucks-toting girlfriend approves/70)
Fox bodies are fun. Go drive one. This is basically the worst imaginable fox body and I enjoy it, it can only get better from here.